Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Quotations from *Afterburn*
Colin Harrison
1960- American

“Those old guys up there know most voters can’t find China on a globe. That’s no joke. It’s shocking, the American ignorance of China.”
Colin Harrison, Afterburn

It was almost eleven when he arrived back at his hotel. The Sikh doorman, a vestige from the days of the British Empire, nodded a greeting. Inside the immense lobby a piano player pushed along a little tune that made Charlie feel mournful, and he sat down in one of the deep chairs that faced the harbor. So much ship traffic, hundreds of barges and freighters and, farther out, the supertankers. To the east sprawled the new airport--they had filled in the ocean there, hiring half of all the world's deep-water dredging equipment to do it. History in all this. He was looking at ships moving across the dark waters, but he might as well be looking at the twenty-first century itself, looking at his own countrymen who could not find factory jobs. The poor fucks had no idea what was coming at them, not a clue. China was a juggernaut, an immense, seething mass. It was building aircraft carriers, it was buying Taiwan. It shrugged off turmoil in Western stock markets. Currency fluctuations, inflation, deflation, volatility--none of these things compared to the fact that China had eight hundred and fifty million people under the age of thirty-five. They wanted everything Americans now took for granted, including the right to piss on the shoes of any other country in the world.
Colin Harrison, Afterburn

After commissions and taxes, his evening’s activities had netted him close to eight million dollars—a sum grotesque not so much for its size but for the speed and ease with which he had seized it—two phone calls!—and, most of all, for its mockery of human toil. Well, it was a grotesque world now. He’d done nothing but understand what the theorists called a market inefficiency and what everyone else knew as inside information. If he was a ghoul, wrenching dollars from Sir Henry Lai’s vomit-filled mouth, then at least the money would go to good use. He’d put all of it in a bypass trust for Julia’s child. The funds could pay for clothes and school and pediatrician’s bills and whatever else. It could pay for a life. He remembered his father buying used car tires from the garage of the Minnesota Highway Patrol for a dollar-fifty. No such thing as steel-belted radials in 1956. You cross borders of time, and if people don’t come with you, you lose them and they you. Now it was an age when a fifty-eight-year-old American executive could net eight million bucks by watching a man choke to death. His father would never have understood it. . .
Colin Harrison, Afterburn

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